DOES HE GET IT?

Will the DeKalb Board Of Eduction (BOE) be booted on Feb. 21st? If what I read in the paper is true, they will be history. The BOE is stacking their whole case on the back of new Interim Superintendent Michael Thurmond.

In the AJC Mr. Thurmond said “the board has voted and decided that I will be the spokesperson. I will make the case on behalf of the DeKalb school district…”

Being a former board member, I find this somewhat curious. First of all, I do not recall a public vote on this issue. If there was no public vote,  Mr. Thurmond has revealed executive session discussion. When I was on the BOE, we took no official votes in executive session. Any course of action discussed in executive session that was going to be moved on had to occur in a public vote. Usually you tried to see what the consensus was so you did not have an embarrassment in your public vote. Of course that happened Monday night when Ms. Edler had to change her vote. Obviously two of her “friends” voted differently, or should I say politically, to make themselves look good to the public.

Mr. Thurmond has his target audience all wrong. It is not the state legislature, it is the state BOE. If the DeKalb BOE is depending on Mr. Thurmond, he better be the tooth fairy. Public sentiment clearly wants the BOE in DeKalb out based on the state law, O.C.G.A § 20-2-73.  Suspension and removal of local school board members under certain circumstances. Of course, I believe the state law is unconstitutional. The DeKalb board’s only real way of attacking the issue is to attack it on constitutional grounds.

Didn’t they just hire Bob Wilson a couple of weeks ago? I thought he was hired to represent them against the state BOE and the Governor if it looked like the board would be removed. If Mr. Wilson files an injunction and it is granted, the BOE hearing will not take place.

As much as the BOE would benefit from a few strategic changes, the law says everybody goes (or does it)? Check out HB 115 in the state Senate for reading right now. This appears to be a highly partisan bill presented to protect our three new board members. Why would Ed Lindsey sign on to this? I believe there is influence going on from part of the DeKalb Board through some DeKalb legislators that have conveniently gotten some others to put their names on the bill. Can you say Druid Hills?

What will be the outcome? If Mr. Thurmond is the plan – bye bye board. If Mr. Wilson is the plan – BOE eventually wins in the Georgia Supreme Court. I believe the Governor would like this to go to the courts. Why? He avoids getting involved in the DeKalb mess and won’t be embarrassed when the law is ruled unconstitutional.

What do you think?

Don

21 thoughts on “DOES HE GET IT?

  1. Don,
    I want to know what is best, as concerned parents, to do to set up DCSS success. I have had enough of protecting everyone except the 99,000 students of DCSS! Please give us a clue as to what we can do to reach out to the decison makers and what we should ask for.
    Thanks for your passion,
    Ashley

  2. I want to know who will pay the legal bills if they fight in court. I would hate to think that tax money was wasted when so many tax payers want them gone!

  3. Ashley,

    Removing this BOE will probably not solve a longer term problem. If political appointments are put in , you the voter really do not have someone you can reach out and touch. When new elections take place in 18 months you will probably get some of the same people removed from the BOE sent right back. Failing that ,you will get someone who thinks like them. They are true representatives of the people who elect them. It appears that only part of our county actually holds their reps. responsible.

    Even though I am a traditionalist I think it is now time to completely reevaluate the way we dispense public education. The system from 60 years ago no longer works in a place like DeKalb. I would favor the portfolio model in DeKalb. I do not believe it is flawless, but it puts control of some major decision making into the hands of those that have the most to gain or lose. It also appears to me that over time it would eventually make the BOE irrelevant.

    You have some good folks on the board that cannot be heard because of the block vote. There is a clear misunderstanding amongst the majority of our board about the difference between equity and equality.

    I think you are going to see more and more movements toward cities within the county. They will try to shape their educational priorities. This will take some help from the legislature. Look at some charters. They also can give you a little more autonomy.

    I hope I helped some.

    Don

  4. DeKalb Mom,

    I do not claim to be an attorney, but if they are being removed because of their actions doing their duties for the board, then I think the taxpayer gets the bill. Board members can be frivolously sued in their job capacity. They must have some protection from all this. It happens more often than you might think. If one had no protection then who would you get to do this job?

    This poor bill and responsibility goes to the legislators, in my opinion. We all told them two years ago that we did not think it was a legal bill. In their zeal to get rid of certain board members they shot themselves in the foot.

    Don

  5. It is curious that the new Superintendent will take on the task of defending the folks that just gave him a $275K per year job.
    Mr. Thurmond’s task is to educate our students and manage the facilities. Not to come to the aid of his “superiors” in crisis.
    The latest sanctions against the DeKalb School System are not about student scores. Not teacher competence. Not buses or buildings. It’s complaint is with the the discordant Board Members.
    Mr. Thurmond’s most apparent skills should be to rid the Administration Building of all patronage dead wood and to instruct them in applying for unemployment.
    SACS has not criticized the schools, just the school Board.

  6. You know what, Don? In all of the scenarios you describe, taxpayers, our kids and their hardworking teachers are the ultimate losers. That is just sad. It is a real shame that these board members are too arrogant or prideful to admit that they’ve done the exact opposite of what they are charged with doing. If they were bigger people, they would step down. Meanwhile, more and more taxpayer money is going down the proverbial drain, paying for legal fees and inflated central office salaries instead of a quality education for the kids of DeKalb and equitable compensation for our teachers.

    I, unlike you, believe that potential leaders who are different from the current ones in S. DeKalb do exist. Folks in all parts of the county are tired of the status quo. I believe that two years ago, it was a different story. People either believed that Gene Walker, Sarah Copelin-Wood and Donna Edler would adequately represent them or they were just checked out/uninformed. More and more people are paying attention now and are dissatisfied with their current representation.

    I often say that it just shouldn’t be this hard to ensure a quality education for one’s children. Something has gone terribly wrong and though you feel removal of this board is not the answer, I disagree. I mean, what other option do we really have at this point. Too much damage has been done. Trust will NEVER be regained by some of these board members. Never. In my opinion, anyone would be better than them. Change, in and of itself, could improve the current situation.

    Why do you say appointed leaders aren’t someone we can reach out and touch? The state BOE is appointed, but I feel they are relatively accessible to me in this situation? In fact, at the 1/17 hearing, I reached out and shook each of their hands and thanked them for holding this board’s feet to the fire. I’m curious as to why you feel that way. I look forward to your response.

  7. Jennifer,

    I agree. We parents can take action now! One step I know everyone can take now is to contact all the state board members(Dr. Barge’s office) and express your concerns before Feb.21 hearing. They will compile all the emails in a book and present these to the state board members who are making the decisions. Here is the link to contact them. Scroll down and you will see their photos/email address:
    http://www.doe.k12.ga.us/External-Affairs-and-Policy/State-Board-of-Education/Pages/default.aspx

  8. Jennifer,
    I highly doubt South DeKalb will elect anybody except more of the same. Please refer to DCSD District #5 BOE race in 2010.

    DeKalb District #5 BOE Race in 2010:
    Kirk Nooks – B.S. and M.B.A from Mercer and Ed.D. from George Washington
    Jacques Hall – Perimeter College student
    Cunningham – functional illiterate and convicted felon with high school education

    2010 BOE election results
    Jay Cunningham – 64%
    Jackques Hall – 24%
    Kirk Nooks – 12%

  9. As I stated, that was 2 years ago. I believe that much has changed in the climate in S. DeKalb since then. The folks that I talk to that have attended the BOE meeting and are from those areas are just as disappointed and fed up as those in my community are.

    I have/am currently encouraging members of my community and the organizations I belong to to write letters to the state BOE. I have already sent them three of my own and have written to Gov. Deal as well.

  10. Don – while I have no inside information, a couple of points worth note. First, I do not think this Governor would hesitate to weigh in on a matter as important as this. While he may be content to let the removal statute and any potential lawsuit travel on parallel paths, my sense is that he would not avoid making a decision. He was not the Governor when the legislation was passed so I do not see how he would be embarassed by any action of the courts to overturn the statute. It would also be interesting, particularly in light of Jennifer’s comment, whether a court would grant an injunction to stop the hearing. Who is being harmed here? The current BOE members will continue to get paid, if the law is deemed unconstitutional they can be returned to office, if they go through the administrative hearing and are found to be of assistance in the cloud over accreditation, they can be returned to office, and the superintendent would not be left without a functioning board.

    Second, I am not convinced the Governor would make political appointments – there are plenty of good citizens who often think differently than the Governor who could serve on an interim basis. Juanita Baranco, Thurbert Baker, David Williamson, Stephanie Benfield, Michael Thurmond to name a few. The important attribute they would bring is an understanding that board service is a different form of governance than that of legislative/representative service. Serving on a board is not serving on a mini-legislature (I know you know that). It is serving the mission of the organization, working together even when you are on the losing end of a vote, and supporting the duly appointed chief executive officer. If that is what we currently have, then the current board should have no fear come the 21st.

    I do appreciate your comments and do not find them off point. I do think, however, that the Governor has the best interest of the 99,000 students more clearly in his vision than you might imagine.

  11. Internet-Libertarian-
    If those are the facts please send to state board members who are making the decisions and to Gov. Deal. I wouldn’t assume they know this info. In fact, I called the Governor’s office today and they said they haven’t gotten many complaints especailly around Mr. Thurmond speaking for the board members at the hearing. Please send emails to these people. I was told they will take these emails seriously. Please tell all you know what they can do.
    http://www.doe.k12.ga.us/External-Affairs-and-Policy/State-Board-of-Education/Pages/default.aspx

    thank you Jennifer for taking action!

  12. Someone on dsw2 made a point, is he licensed/certified to even hold this position? There is a certification for this position.

  13. So, HB115, huh? Did anybody read that? It leaves Marshall, Jim and Melvin in place. Thurmond too, I guess, since Marshall brought him in.

  14. Prior to this past election, BOE districts #2 and #4 had board reps (Mr Womack and Mr McChesney) that aligned with Dr Jester. They were replaced with board reps (Mr McMahan and Mr Orson) that align themselves with Dr Walker and the Democratic Delegation (Mary Margaret Oliver and Howard Mosby).

    This is the direction DeKalb wants to go. It’s a vocal minority that doesn’t want Dr Walker and those types on the board. Districts #2 and #4 are getting exactly what they asked for.

  15. Mr McChesney
    OK, So HB 115 leaves McMahan, Orson, Johnson in place with the current Interim Superintendent Michael Thurmond. How will Governor Deal pick the BOE replacements if the other 6 are removed?

  16. Womack was an arrogant jerk who only won by about 50 votes in a run-off. When his military school was shot down, he shut down. Darn straight he didn’t get re-elected.

  17. I can’t argue with your characterization of Womack. That being said, District #4 now has McMahan who aligns himself with the DeKalb Delegation and Walker. McMahan supported Edler for chair. Some people are happy with that and some people are not.

  18. @Brad, are you serious? I must call BS on this. The Governor doesn’t want to get involved here. He’ll end up owning the problems of DeKalb. You think Benfield, etc. would work? Why don’t you just have Mary Margaret Oliver run the school district? Oh, that’s right, it’s already happening. Did you miss HB115? Everybody else has. Wonder why? Probably because Mary Margaret, Marshall and their folks will be sitting pretty. Marshall, Jim and Melvin will stay on the board, have Thurmond at the helm and friends with six-figure salaries. All is well for Fernbank but the rest of DeKalb will pay and suffer. Divide and conquer. Business as usual.

  19. Brad,
    WHAT? Did you just list Michael Thurmond as a good choice for board rep? Check out AJC Get Schooled. Michael Thurmond isn’t exactly popular in DeKalb these days. I hope these aren’t the kind of people the Governor has in mind.

  20. Don: Do you know if the DeKalb BOE hearing before the State BOE on the 21st is an open meeting, and is so where and when this hearing be held? I can’t seem to find any information on this. Thanks,

  21. Luke,

    So far as I know it is an open meeting. It will be at the Twin Towers across the street from the Capitol. I believe it is a morning meeting. I am not sure of the time. It could start as early as 8 AM.